JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Washington -- As patrons of the Madigan Army Medical Center enter through the hospital's revolving doors, they meet the bustle of hospital staff going from place to place and patients rushing to their appointments. It can be overwhelming for some. However, within this busy place, there stand heroes in red vests waiting to help these patrons make sense of the labyrinth.
They are volunteers with the American Red Cross who are ready and willing to help those in need of directions, information or escort through the facility.
"Being able to help people who either don't know where they need to go or haven't been to the hospital before is the reason I continue to volunteer at the hospital," said Aldro E. Grieco, information desk coordinator. "I want the patients to know that they can talk to the people at the front desk and be taken care of in a professional manner."
The volunteer staff is available during peak times at the hospital, however some choose to arrive several hours early to ensure patients are taken care of.
"Even though I am scheduled to start at eight in the morning, I am usually standing tall at the front desk of the hospital by six, because I want to help our current service members, their dependents and retirees get to their appointments on time and with as little trouble as possible," said Grieco.
Red Cross volunteers, who help and assist in multiple clinics and departments , receive the same training as regular hospital personnel.
In addition to giving hospital patrons directions and the occasional kind word, the volunteers also increase safety, said Hylie Jan Pressey, a customer service officer for Madigan. Pressey described the volunteers as an extra set of eyes and can quickly contact medical staff if something happens like a fall or other medical emergencies.
"While I have been working at the hospital, three separate women have had their water break as they approached the desk," said Grieco. "The volunteer staff is trained to comfort these patients until medical staff can get them to the delivery room."
Red Cross volunteers can be current service members, family members or veterans. Several of the current volunteers chose to join Red Cross volunteer programs while they or their spouses were on active duty and have continued to help for many years.
"I have been volunteering with the Red Cross for more than 60 years and I plan to continue helping for some time to come," said Pam Trobaugh, an information desk volunteer who has been working since the new medical center opened in 1992.
Patients who enter the hospital sometimes have concerns about the procedures they'll face or may already be having a bad day, said Trobaugh. She said volunteers like her strive to provide a smiling face who patients can count on to get them where they need to be.
There are more than 200 volunteer positions at Madigan Army Medical Center, each of which saves Madigan money and resources. These positions include the information front desk personnel, the blood bank workers and administrative functions.
"The kind-hearted people who fill these positions allow the hospital to focus their spending on other programs and initiatives, which makes the hospital a better and more efficient health care facility," Pressey said.
For more information about volunteering with the Red Cross call the American Red Cross Joint Base Lewis-McChord Office at 253-968-1055 or email JBLM@redcross.org.